Friday, September 22, 2017

"A Dangerous Engagement" by Melanie Dickerson

A Dangerous Engagement (The Regency Spies of London, #3)When Felicity Mayson receives an invitation to a country house party, she is instantly paired with a pleasant young man who doesn't mind her lack of dowry. In a whirlwind romance, she accepts his proposal--and then learns her fiance is a leader of an insurrectionist group intent on leading a revolution in England. Phillip McDowell is undercover with the group gathering evidence against them, and he convinces Felicity to continue masquerading as the man's fiancee rather than break it off. But can they find proof--and get it out--before they get caught?

Felicity is definitely in over her head, playing a very dangerous game, but at least she's constantly turning to the Lord for help. To be honest, she's not a good spy, and she's an even worse coquette, trying to string her fiance along without letting him take more than she wants to give. It's amazing she isn't called out long before, but at least she shows gumption in her spying.

I have trouble believing these particular insurrectionists could stage a mass uprising against the government; they just don't strike me as particularly effective or committed revolutionaries if they spend their evenings getting drunk and fighting with each other. I would think that if they were truly devoted (or desperate for change), they would be more apt to exercise self-control. Outside of Lady Blackstone, they seem rather . . . inept. She and Ratley are the only members of the group with any kind of personality.

The story is not too deep, but it's fast-paced and full of suspense.

Thank you Waterfall and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Regency Spies of London
1. A Spy's Devotion
2. A Viscount's Proposal
3. A Dangerous Engagement

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tamera Alexander's "Christmas at Carnton" - novella introduction to a new series

Christmas at Carnton (Carnton #0.5)Pregnant and recently widowed, Aletta Prescott is struggling to make ends meet. With eviction looming and her hopes of a cooking job dashed, she is afraid for the future. However, the acquaintanceship of a wounded soldier offers her a different opportunity of employment, as well as a surprising friendship. Jake Winston would give anything to get back to the army and his sharp-shooting, but the head injury he sustained when shot has affected his vision, and he fears losing not only his greatest skill, but his very identity. However, working with Aletta proves a better assignment than he expected. But with her having already lost one love in the war, and him raring to go back, can there be a hope of more than friendship?

I enjoyed this introduction to the Carton Estate. I love how the characters have multiple--and somewhat surprising--skills, with stereotypes being turned on their heads: Aletta is a mother and respectable cook, but she also has a talent for (and enjoyment of) carpentry. Jake is a sharp-shooter, but he is also a decent handyman and an artist (and proves to have a way with words). Both of them have real struggles as a result of the war, but I especially can't imagine being in Aletta's position, having one child and another on the way, no job, facing eviction, and no time to grieve the loss of her husband.

Tamera Alexander excels at weaving historical details into her books, and this novella--short as it is--is no exception. I'm looking forward to the upcoming novels and seeing exactly what role the Carnton estate played in the Civil War; the author hints that it saw its own share of action.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related Nashville Novels (contain some cross-over characters/connections to Carnton):

Belmont Mansion
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung

Belle Meade Plantation
1. To Whisper Her Name
2. To Win Her Favor
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart

Friday, September 15, 2017

"An Inconvenient Beauty" by Kristi Ann Hunter - a fun end to the series

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House, #4)In the final Hawthorne House novel, Griffin Hawthorne, Duke of Riverton has decided it's time to take a wife, and after a year of study and research has found the perfect women. Unfortunately, the woman proves elusive, abandoning him frequently in the company of her cousin, Isabella Breckenridge. Isabella is participating in the London season for only one reason--helping her uncle in exchange for the funds to save the family farm. Even if Griffith were interested with her--which he's not, as he's pursuing her cousin--catching the eye of a duke will not help her cause, since such a rank would scare off the plethora of suitors she needs to accomplish her goals. But while Griffith and Isabella are busy trying not to attract each other, somehow they've slipped into a friendship . . . a friendship that threatens to become something more.

As sad as I am to have reached the end of the Hawthorne House novels, I have to say the series ended in a highly satisfactory manner. Griffith (he-who-is-always-in-control) definitely meets his match in Isabella--not that she deliberately tests his control, but that she is so far out of the running for a bride that she worms her way under his shell before either of them realize what's happening.

I enjoyed that plain, boring Fredrika--Bella's cousin--is not actually a boring person; she might be sedate and not the best conversationalist in public situations, but with Bella she's lively and fun. I could see her being a good match for Griffith or any man, if she weren't in love with someone else. The antics that the girls go through to help Fredrika avoid Griffith and sneak time with her true love were really funny. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book, generally because of them (though Griffith's ladder incident cracked me up too). And of course, helping her cousin leaves Isabella more time with the one man she doesn't want to pursue her--making for more good scenes.

I enjoyed the bits of history added into the story (which the author points out in the note at the end), and I feel like I finally have a glimmer of what the British House of Lords vs. House of Commons is; Griffith might be the first British aristocrat in a book I've read to actually physically do anything with politics in the course of the story (even if it isn't a big part of the book). The message in the book is simple yet good--trust in the Lord, not your own power. Oddly (yet somehow frequently-true-to-life), it's the powerless Isabella rather than the powerful Griffith who needs to learn it.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Hawthorne House
0.5 "A Lady of Esteem" - a free novella introduction to the Hawthornes and friends!
1. A Noble Masquerade
2. An Elegant Facade
3. An Uncommon Courtship
4. An Inconvenient Beauty

Monday, September 11, 2017

Lori Benton's "Many Sparrows" - a piercing a story

When her husband leaves for help following their wagon crash and her son is captured by the Shawnee, Clare Inglesby is left alone and in labor with her second child, desperate to recover her son, but without a means forward. Frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, but his connections among the Shawnee make it more complicated than before--the woman who has adopted Clare's son is his own grieving sister. With the Shawnee village on Rain Crow's side, and war threatening to explode on the frontier, will Clare ever get her son back?

There is always so much to love about Lori Benton's books--from the real, human characters, to the fascinating backbone of history, to the piercing message we can take away from reading them.

I cannot imagine the pain either Clare nor Rain Crow experiences over little Jacob/Many Sparrows--for Clare, the kidnapping of her son. For Rain Crow, the joy of an adoption destroyed as the birth mother suddenly appears to take her child back. Right away I wanted to make peace between the two women so they can both be happy, but I know it isn't that simple. At times I was frustrated with Clare for her single mindedness about taking Jacob back to civilization, even after she gets to know the Shawnee, but when I stop and think--who wouldn't do everything she could to rescue her child?

Being caught between worlds on multiple fronts, Jeremiah is a wonderful source of balance. He's been through fire and knows now how to truly put his trust in the Lord. It doesn't mean life is easy for him--especially when caught between his sister and the woman he promised to help--but his faith is a wonderful example for us. He is a spectacular example of a godly man--the best kind of hero.

Seeing the Shawnee perspective on Dunmore's War reminds me how it takes both sides to start a war--and how many missed opportunities for peace there always are. Though the real life characters Logan, Cornstalk, and Nonhelema have primarily background roles in the story, their words and actions are moving; Logan's because his years of peace with the whites was shattered when the rest of his family was ambushed and massacred; Cornstalk and Nonhelema's because they advocated for peace and knew exactly what war--especially losing the war--would cost, yet they were willing to lead their people into battle anyway (and then make them face the consequences of their choices).

Perhaps the thing I love most about Lori Benton's stories is how so many lives affect others--one bad decision can devastate a whole family or more, yet healing and reconciliation can be brought around not just to include those immediately involved, but also to enfold others. It's beautifully reflective of God's hand in our lives, where He is at work in a far greater and more complex way than we can possibly imagine.

I highly recommend reading The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn immediately after this, since it is the story of a couple of the secondary characters in this book (young Wildcat when he is all grown up).

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related novels:
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

Friday, September 8, 2017

Ronie Kendig's "Crown of Souls" - an Indiana Jones-esque adventure

Crown of Souls (Tox Files #2)When Tox Russell takes a sniper bullet to the shoulder, it isn't an assassination attempt--it's a message from an old brother-in-arms: join or die. Alec King, wearing an ancient crown of questionable power, has gone off the deep end as a vigilante, taking vengeance on both terrorists and old comrades who wronged him, and he wants Tox to join him. As Tox and his team race to stop Alec, Tox fears his similarities to his old friend, wondering if they aren't one and the same--both monsters at heart. He wants desperately to save him, but will the crown warp Alec beyond redemption?

I love the Indiana Jones-esque theme to these books (and the fact they they even reference him in the story)--the ancient history and supernaturally powerful artifacts make these books so different from the average military suspense. And I was most pleased to have my suspicions about a certain questionable character confirmed!

Since I love the racing around the globe and focus on the ancient historical sights, the beginning felt a little slow to me as they figure out what's going on and prepare to head out (to be fair, it's very important to the story--just not as interesting to me).

It's slow going for Tox, but he is taking more steps on the journey toward healing and faith. His struggle over his similarities to Alec, especially in light of his secrets, was poignant--as is Haven's faith in him. I wouldn't have minded a touch more on Tzivia--she seems to be treading a fine line with self-destruction. I just hope she doesn't hurt herself more in the process . . . Looking forward to book 3 and whatever supernatural adventures the team will be getting into!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Tox Files
0.5: "The Warrior's Seal"
1. Conspiracy of Silence
2. Crown of Souls

Monday, September 4, 2017

Rachel Dylan's "Deadly Proof" - a thrilling legal suspense

Deadly Proof (Atlanta Justice #1)Attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel on a huge case against a massive pharmaceutical company and their cover-up of their latest drug. When a whistle-blower comes to Kate, she hires private detective Landon James to check out her authenticity--but the woman is murdered before giving Kate the details. As Kate prepares for the trial and Landon looks further into the woman's death, it becomes clear that someone in the pharmaceutical company is intent on winning  trial, and they're not afraid to hurt--or kill--to do it.

This book is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for in a legal thriller--lots of digging to find the truth, danger and suspense, and a dash of romance. And the hint of conspiracy always livens things up. While I enjoy romance, I appreciated that it doesn't compete for the main focus of this story; instead, the case is most important, with the romance and Kate's friendship with the opposing lawyer, Ethan, coming in a tie for second.

I never, ever want to become a lawyer; sitting on a jury would likely be hard enough. However, while such a job might be torture for me, I really enjoyed reading about all the trial prep and search for proof. Dylan appears to know her stuff; a lot more goes on behind the scenes than we see in tv shows. I never felt the story get bogged down in legalese, and the pacing is perfect.

Ethan is kind of in the role as the villain (being as he represents the evil pharmaceutical company), but he is far from evil--just caught in the slippery slope of questionable ethics. He makes some poor choices, but I can pity him as each decision leads him one step further from where he should be. I also appreciated that while Ethan is teetering toward the path to the dark side, there are still other lawyers besides Kate who have a moral compass and refuse to be compromised, even when the consequences are significant. That inner debate for the lawyers--seeing whether they will follow their values when temptation comes their way--is really what makes them human and keeps me reading!

Both the history and camaraderie of Landon and his college roommates reminded me of the men in Dani Pettrey's Chesapeake Valor series; readers who have enjoyed Pettrey's novels will enjoy this one too (I know I did). I have high hopes for Kate's two best friends and Landon's college roommates to get together in future novels (but that is pure speculation on my part). Also, seeing what happens with Nicole and Miles could be interesting as well. I'm glad this is advertised as the start of a series!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Atlanta Justice
1. Deadly Proof
2. Lone Witness (May 2018)

Friday, September 1, 2017

September Christian Fiction releases

New Christian fiction releases for September 2017:

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House, #4) All this Time (Walker Family, #4) Crown of Souls (Tox Files #2)
An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Hawthorne House, book 4

While a debutante should be enjoying her society debut, an unpleasant bargain made to compensate for her family's reduced circumstances hinders her marriage prospects--and possibly love, if she can't find a way to get out of it.

All This Time by Melissa Tagg (Indie); Walker Family, book 4

His past refuses to let go, while her fears hold her future captive. Can these two long-time friends find the courage to reach for something better?

Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig (Bethany House); Tox Files, book 2
Deadly Proof (Atlanta Justice #1)

When a rogue Special Forces operator shoots Tox, an old friend insists they go after the would-be assassin in vengeance, but that old friend is using an ancient artifact linked to some of the worst slaughters in history--and he's becoming more and more like the slaughterers.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan (Bethany House); Atlanta Justice, book 1

In the biggest case of her career, an attorney is tapped for lead in a case against a pharmaceutical corporate cover-up, but someone is willing to do anything--even commit murder--to keep the case from going to trial.